Tributes to extraordinary Flinders alumni

Women who have dared to dream big and succeed – by creating the Space School in Adelaide, and fighting for people with disabilities – are among the high achievers to be recognised in the latest Flinders University’s alumni awards.

The highest honours in the 2019 Alumni Awards will be presented at a special ceremony at the Mortlock Room in the State Library of South Australia.

The highest of Flinders’ alumni honours is the Convocation Medal, established in 1991 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of the University. It recognises Flinders University graduates who have made a substantial and outstanding contribution to the local, national or international community.

This year’s two Convocation Medallists are Flinders graduates Dr Olivia Samardzic PSM, a Research Leader with the Australian Department of Defence and founder of the SA Space School, and Professor Anne Kavanagh, Chair in Disability and Health at the Centre for Health Equity in The University of Melbourne.   

Professor Anne Kavanagh, Chair in Disability and Health at the Centre for Health Equity in The University of Melbourne.

As a Research Leader of the Cyber and Electronic Warfare Division within the Department of Defence’s Defence Science and Technology Group, Dr Samardzic (who completed BSc(Hons) ’90 and PhD(SE) ’96) has provided an outstanding contribution to the national and international science, technology, engineering and mathematics community. Her work to establish the SA Space School has also been pivotal in stimulating the engagement of a new generation of STEM students in South Australia.

Dr Samardzic’s achievements were recognised in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday honours with a Public Service Medal f(PSM) or applying science and technology to provide the Australian Defence Force with superior operational capability.

2019 Alumni Award recipients, from left, Flinders University Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Perry, Alan Tucker, Professor Anne Kavanagh, Kim Cheater, Dr Olivia Samardzic PSM, Dr Basia Bonkowski, Shona Reid, John Eckermann (for his wife, the late Professor Liz Eckermann), Dr Sukhvinder Badwal, Adjunct Associate Professor Jenny Hurley and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students) Professor Clare Pollock.

Professor Kavanagh’s outstanding leadership and the advancement of research on health inequities affecting people with disabilities has resulted in extraordinary change for the better across Australia.      

“I have always been passionate about improving the social and health outcomes of people who are disadvantaged. When my eldest child was diagnosed with Autism and an intellectual disability, I experienced first-hand how people with disabilities and their families experienced poorer health outcomes because they were often marginalised from society,” says Professor Kavanagh (who gained BMBS ’87).

“Later I developed multiple sclerosis. I knew then that I wanted to devote the rest of my career to producing evidence to guide health and social policy to improve the socio-economic wellbeing and health of people with disabilities.”

Dr Sukhvinder Badwal, a CSIRO Fellow and Chief Research Scientist.

This year’s awards ceremony also sees the presentation of seven Distinguished Alumni Awards, which recognises extraordinary achievements by a diverse array of Flinders University graduates. In alphabetical order: 

Dr Sukhvinder Badwal (PhD(PhySc)’78), a CSIRO Fellow and Chief Research Scientist, will be awarded for his outstanding international leadership, research and development in energy technology and engineering. He is respected internationally as an authority in clean and renewable energy technologies.         

 Sydney-based Basia Bonkowski (BA(Hons) ’75), Executive Producer of Screentime, will be awarded for her significant contribution to the creative arts as a television producer and presenter, author and movie reviewer.

 Mr Kim Cheater (BEc ’86), Partner at PwC and Co-Chair of the National Reconciliation Governance Committee, will be awarded for his significant contribution to the business community of South Australia and commitment to Reconciliation.

 A Distinguished Alumni Award will be granted posthumously to the late Professor Liz Eckermann – BA(Hons) ’77, MA(SocSc)(Res) ’85, PhD(SocSc) ‘94 – for her outstanding international leadership in health research to improve the quality of life and health outcomes for underprivileged and marginalised women around the world.  

Adjunct Associate Professor Jenny Hurley (MHlthAdmin ’12), Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer at SA Health, will be awarded for outstanding leadership, advocacy and commitment to the ongoing development of nursing and midwifery practices within South Australia.

Ms Shona Reid (BBehavSc ’00), Executive Director of Reconciliation South Australia, will be awarded for her significant contribution and commitment to the advancement and rights of Aboriginal children, young people, families and communities.

Artist, author and teacher Alan Tucker (BA (Hons) ’74, DipEd ’75) will be awarded for his significant contribution to promote and share stories from Australian history with the younger generation.

South Australian artist, author and teacher Alan Tucker
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